AUGUSTA — Two county employees and one recent retiree from Kennebec County should have richer retirement benefits as a result of a recent court decision.

County taxpayers, however, may have to ante up for it.

A superior court justice has upheld a decision by the Board of Trustees of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, which said the county is required to offer membership in the state retirement system to three employees. The employees — Carol Royer of Farmingdale, Jim Saucier, of Belgrade, and Diana York of Pittston — didn’t get that opportunity, for a total of 31 years among them.

“They should have been offered Maine State Retirement and they weren’t,” said their attorney, Walter McKee. “They said had they been, they definitely would have signed up; it’s a tremendous benefit.”

Justice Andrew Horton ruled April 8 on the appeal by Kennebec County, which was handled in the Maine Business and Consumer Court in Portland.

“The county had a responsibility to inform its members of their membership rights,” Horton concluded in his 20-page decision. “The county failed to satisfy the board that it had informed three employees of their right to become members, and the board’s determination to that effect was supported by substantial evidence. The county is responsible for payment of past employer contributions and interest on both employee and employer contributions for the employees, should they elect to enroll in the system.”

The ruling was welcomed by Royer, 67, who retired last July as deputy administrative assistant after 25 years working in the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office.

“Wow. That’s good news,” she said. “It means I get more retirement, but I don’t know how that’s going to affect my getting the Maine State Retirement now.”

She said she had yet to see the decision but expected to get a letter either from the state retirement system or from the attorney. She had participated in a private pension plan during her employment with the county.

Since 1982, Kennebec County employees have had the option to join the state’s retirement system, according to filings in the case. The three employees all joined it by 2010.

Warren Shay, the attorney representing the county, had estimated in court documents filed with the case that the decision could cost the county $250,000.

Kennebec County Administrator Robert Devlin said commissioners were notified of the decision and discussions are continuing with the attorney about “the fine points of the judge’s decision,” as well as whether to file an appeal with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

He said that insurance is not available to cover the cost of funding those contributions. The Maine County Commissioners’ Association self-funded risk pool was formed in 1989.

“It will have to come from fund balance,” he said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
[email protected]